Royal Gun Salutes are one of those wonderfully traditional and nostalgic occasions, full of pomp and ceremony. They mark special occasions and are an absolute spectacle to behold. The most common, recurring, dates are:
- 6th February – Accession Day – the Queen acceded to the throne the same day her father died in 1952
- 21st April – The Queen’s (real) birthday
- 2nd June – Coronation Day – the Queen had her Coronation on 2nd June 1953
- 4th June (for 2014) – The State Opening of Parliament (date varies each year – usually May or Jun)
- 10th June – the Duke of Edinburgh’s birthday
- 14th June (for 2014) – the Queen’s (official) birthday (date varies each year – a Saturday in June)
- 14th November – the Prince of Wales’s birthday
We recently attended the Royal Gun Salute at Green Park to commemorate Coronation Day
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) are a mounted unit and are responsible for the firing of Royal Salutes in either Hyde Park or Green Park. They also provide a gun carriage and a team of black horses for State and Military funerals. The Gun Salutes over at the Tower of London are carried out by the Honorable Artillery Company.
The youthful looking recruits of the RHA idle around inside the lush environs of Green Park
until eventually the Marching Band appears and things start to kick up a gear.
The recruits now march to get into position, to await the arrival of their mounted compatriots pulling their World War One vintage 13 pound guns. Note how they march with their arms outstretched, almost reminds us of the Beatles at Abbey Road.
Seemingly appearing from nowhere and thundering across the turf, the men on horseback rapidly dismount and unhitch the 13 pounder guns to get them ready to fire.
Now the real action begins. You know the guns are lined up, you know they’re ready to fire and you know they’re only firing blanks. Yet, when the first round goes off, you still almost jump out of your skin. What is must have been like on the fields of Blenheim or Waterloo or the Somme is difficult to imagine.
The deafening crescendo of firing continues up and down the line of guns until the requisite number of rounds have been fired. This can be quite confusing in itself. In simple terms:
- The basic Royal Salute is 21 rounds
- At Hyde Park or Green Park, an extra 20 rounds are added (as they are Royal Parks)
- At the Tower of London, it’s a basic 21 rounds plus an extra 20 (because it’s a Royal Palace)
- On Royal Anniversaries another 21 rounds will be fired from the Tower of London (on behalf of City of London)
So usually you’ll end up with 41 rounds at Hyde Park or Green Park and 62 at the Tower of London (depending on the occasion).
Even though they are only firing blanks, the percussive effect of the firing leads to some interesting side effects. This round ended up with what looked like a giant ‘smoke ring’ drifting into the trees.
Eventually though. their work is done. The compatriots on horseback arrive, hitch the guns back up again and move on out. The whole experience probably takes no longer than 30 minutes
There were a couple of really lovely things we observed as the troops left. Firstly the assembled crowd applauded them on the way out. A mark of respect for what had been an immaculate performance.
Secondly, the Marching Band initially left in formation
Just down the road however, they stopped and ‘stood down’ i.e. started to relax. The assembled tourists noticed this and before long these normal soldiers were being feted by the public, almost as celebrities. The patient and respectful way they stood taking photos with complete strangers was a credit to them as well as their Regiment.